China auto sales up 6 per cent in August

BEIJING — China’s car sales rose 6 per cent in August over a year earlier as the industry’s biggest market recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, but purchases for the year to date were off more than 15 per cent, an industry group reported Thursday.

Sales of sedans, SUVs and minivans rose to 1.7 million, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Total vehicle sales, including trucks and buses, rose 11.6 per cent to 2.2 million.

Auto sales for the first eight months of the year were down 15.4 per cent at 11.3 million, an improvement from the first half’s 22.4% contraction. Total vehicle sales were down 9.7 per cent at 14.6 million.

Auto demand already was suffering before China shut down factories and dealerships in February to fight the coronavirus. Consumers are uneasy about a slowing economy and a tariff war with Washington.

Last year’s sales fell 9.6 per cent, the second straight annual decline.

That has hurt global automakers that are looking to China to propel sales growth. It also squeezes cash flow at a time when global and Chinese brands are spending billions of dollars to develop electric vehicles under pressure to meet government sales quotas.

August sales of electric and gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles rose 25.8 per cent over a year earlier to 109,000. For the year to date, sales were off 26.4 per cent at 596,000.

SUV sales rose 6.5 per cent to 800,000. They were off 8.7 per cent for the first eight months of the year at 5.2 million. Sedan sales gained 5.8 per cent to 821,000. For the year to date, they fell 18.8 per cent to 5.3 million.